Memorial Service for Nelson Mandela Held in Phnom Penh

The South African Embassy in Cambodia on Monday held its official memorial ceremony for former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died December 5 at the age of 95.

Representatives of the government and foreign embassies turned out at Phnom Penh’s Raffles Hotel Le Royal to pay their respects to the internationally revered statesman, who emerged from 27 years in prison to peacefully lead his country out of decades of racial segregation.

The hour-long service, which was attended by South Africa’s non-resident ambassador to Cambodia, Robina Marks, was a celebratory reflection on the long life and many achievements of Mandela, whose death on December 5 followed a long battle with illness that saw him recede from the public eye, though never from public consciousness.

“We have been truly blessed by a far-sighted leader who took [South Africa] into democracy and we are deeply grateful for a Constitution that protects our hard-fought freedoms,” Ms. Marks said.

Mandela was laid to rest on Sunday in a family plot in South Africa on the final day of an official 10-day mourning period. Yesterday’s service coincided with South Africa’s annual Day of Reconciliation, which came into effect in 1994 following Mandela’s inauguration as president in the country’s first-ever democratic elections.

“Our founding president brought our people together against all odds,” Ms. Marks said, adding that Mandela’s lasting legacy is that he brought together all sides in dialogue toward a democratic goal.

“Taking that message into your hearts…would be the best way to honor the memory of Nelson Mandela.”

Foreign Affairs Ministry Secretary of State Ouch Borith spoke of Mandela’s legacy as a champion of human rights and said that his life should be a lesson to everyone.

“He lived a life of daunting struggle to bring about human rights for all and taught us we must live a meaningful life for the betterment of all,” he said.

Indian Ambassador to Cambodia Dinesh Patnaik, who hosted the service, spoke of his long personal friendship with Mandela and his sense of privilege considering the long relationship between South Africa and India, which was one of the first countries to support the anti-apartheid movement and whose anti-colonial leader Mahatma Gandhi was an inspiration to Mandela’s African National Congress.

“I met him many, many times and it was a great honor for an Indian particularly,” he said.

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